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U.S. Humane Society holds Red Lake clinic

REDBY -- The scene is reminiscent of a field hospital, except the patients are canine and feline, rather than human.

The Rural Area Veterinary Services of the Humane Society of the United States is holding the third annual spay, neuter and vaccination clinic at the former water bottling plant in Redby this week. Red Lake Nation members can bring their dogs and cats for exams and treatment at no charge.

Led by Dr. Leo Egar, veterinarians and veterinary students examine the animals and discuss pet health management with owners. They strongly recommend limiting the pet population by spaying and neutering to prevent pets from roaming and give them healthier, longer lives.

"The message we want to take to our people is we're supposed to care for the animals," said Karen Good of Rosie's Rescue, a Red Lake non-profit that rescues, rehabilitates and finds adoption homes for unwanted animals.

"You look at the quality of life of our animals and you can tell the quality of life of our nation," Good said.

Good and her board -- Somona Paiz, Jo Tallchief, Katie Sumner and Polly McMaster -- coordinated the clinic with the RAV Humane Society. Good said they also had volunteers from the Red Lake High School Alternative Learning Center, where she teaches. She said several ALC students helped out for various periods for school credit, with Wallace Kingbird and Tim Needham committing to the full week of the clinic, which runs through Saturday.

"This is an extended clinic because we have community support," Good said.

St. Francis of Assisi Church donated the pet rescue van and the RAV staff of about 30 are staying at St. Mary's Mission as guests of the church.

Stephanie Moore of RAV explained that the program started in 1995 through the University of Tennessee to provide veterinary care for economically needy areas in Appalachia and American Indian reservations.

"We'll do 50-100 vaccinations up front and we have 40 surgeries today," she said.

The old water bottling plant was divided into a waiting area, which spilled over into the parking lot, and an exam and vaccination center. The dogs awaiting surgery rest in kennel cages in the main room, with cats separated in an enclosed area to reduce their stress.

A series of operating tables is a sterile perimeter set up with surgical crews and anesthetists to perform the spay, neuter and other operations.

"Each group of four is supervised by a veterinarian," Moore said.

Animals receive a sedative to calm them, then gas to knock them out and a topical numbing agent at the site of the incision. After the operation, the animals are moved to a recovery area, and when they are conscious, sent home with their owners.

"I got up pretty early," said Jeremy Spears with his daughter, Jeslyn Spears, 6, bringing in 2-month-old shepherd-mix littermates, Dora and Boots.

Moore urged Spears to neuter the puppies so they wouldn't breed with each other in a few months when their hormones kicked in. "We'll do it here for you for free," she said.

In a quiet corner, Egar's traveling companion German shepherd Zeiss dozes in a kennel. "He's our blood donor. He's a good guy," Moore said.

The pet owners are grateful to have the service close to home and at no charge.

"She has been updated every year since she was a baby," said Gloria Whitefeather of a large blonde dog named Mahengan, Wolf in Ojibwe. "She was born in 2003."

Tony Infante arrived with two dogs, a husky-shepherd mix puppy named Bear, or Makwa, and an adoptee pit bull-shepherd mix named Buster. Buster came to them full of ticks and wormy.

"We were going to take him to Bemidji, but we saw the ad (for RAVS) in the paper, and my wife said, 'Just wait a couple days,'" he said.

Good said she hoped the clinic would spay and neuter 200 animals during the five days in Redby.